There's an article in Publishers Weekly about yet another one of these Authonomy-type ideas where people can post their writing to get feedback and maybe a publishing deal.

This time it's coming from a former editor with a small indie press so it uses different language to describe itself. Round Table will bring to the social networking platform not just finished content, but many aspects of the publishing process—including, for authors open to the idea, peer editing. The idea is that feedback and crowd-sourcing can dramatically enrich the editing, authoring and reading process for all involved—not to mention expose potential talent among members of the community.

Right. When I see a phrase like "crowd-sourcing," I get worried. But what really got me in the article was the line, “you have to keep accepting unsolicited submissions, because those people are our readers.” Later he repeats it, “In our formulation,” says Nash, “readers are writers.”

The dedication in J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Inroduction begins, "If there is an amateur reader still left in the world - or anybody who just reads and runs..."

I wonder, are there any amateur readers left? And would it make a difference to the content of what we write if we admitted that most likely the only peope buying books are other writers?

(I guess the big blockbuster bestsellers are the only books bought by amateur readers)

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John, I don't think the writer should ever gear the story to the reader or the fellow writer - the story should be served, not the perceived audience.

It seems like the genre-based confrences are about writers buying each others books - the I'll -buy-yours-if-you-buy-mine mentality, and then everyone goes home with a crap-load of books that they stick in their TBR pile and never even read.

I see a lot of wannabes sucking up to published authors who social network, and who buy (or just say they buy) the author's book with an agenda that the published author will 1. read their MS 2. show their MS to their agent. I also wonder just how much book reading the Internet junkies actually do.

Donald Maass made a point to me about there being a lot of books being sold but never getting read. I wonder how many teenage girls actually read those TWILIGHT books, and how many just carried it around - wanting to be part of the in-crowd, and were really just waiting for the movie to come out.

I think the real readers are at the library, and not at the conferences or on the Internet.
That was a good loud laugh! Absolutely right. This publicity thing on the internet unfortunately generates lists and web sites where authors will say just about anything to make friends and influence buyers.
Josephine--you make some interesting points about readers being at the library.
As a bookseller, as well as an author, I have to say I see large numbers of pure readers. Fortunately, for the sake of my income, as well as the future of publishing.

However, I must say I'm shocked at the number of self-pubs I see, who never considered themselves writers, and never did anything to learn the craft of writing. They simply felt they had to have their names on the cover of a book or books. And it's pretty clear none of these people have cracked a book since high school. Stranger still, too me, there are now loads of people making their living by designing books for these people, and they also don't read and obviously never open books, either. Neither the writers nor the designers know that books are typically indented, rather than having block paragraphs and skipping a line between. Some of them don't know that books are typically right-justified, either.

Since our store is a general-interest, I see these non-writer books in all categories. Because we're in a town that has a New Age bent, I see lots of what I call "My Spiritual Journey." I'm not making fun of anyone's spiritual path. I'm happy when people find whatever gives them peace. But mostly, other people don't care to read about that journey. Yet they're all convinced theirs is unique and that others "hunger" to read their thoughts. I've been told that many times. Turns out nobody does hunger for most of their spiritual stories.

I'm not criticizing self-publishing, either, because I've seen some good books that are self-pubbed, but there's a difference between being published, if only by yourself, and simply being in print. But putting your name on the cover of a book, when that person has nothing to say, has become the way large numbers of people expect to live out that 15 minutes of fame.

I'm not a bookseller, but a member of a critique group with several members who have self-published. Almost without fail, it is because their books were rejected by a handful of publishers and they didn;t want to keep pushing, yet felt their deathless prose needed to live beyond them so other could grow from their life experiences.

They forget one thing: we all have life experiences. Too many self-published books can't pass the "so what?" test.
I liked your comment, Kris.

Your take on the outcome of what many, many self-published writers produce, and why they produce it. This is similar to how I feel. I often I say similar things, but because I am also a writer, many consider me way over the top in my criticism of those who have little to say but say it proudly. (I know you are a writer also, so I suspect you get those kinds of reactions too,)

Worse, those who have no idea how to write a mystery try to write mysteries.

The mystery seems so easy because of the logical progression: Crime and victim, suspects, step-by-step through the scene, around the scene, ask a lot of questions, sort a lot of evidence a la the CSI TV series--which are often inaccurate by the way--come to a solution, and then conclude the book.

I also suspect that many who write self-published mysteries never bother to read the work of others. They don't read the very-good current writers, the classic writers, or even the current best sellers.

I do know of one originally self-published writer who put everything he had in writing, editing *and* writing. He got his books out clean and has been nominated for key mystery awards. He will soon be published by one of the rising, newish publishers of crime fiction.

Self-publication isn't all bad, but most self-published books are pretty bad to awful. Note that I said,"most." I think that the "the greatest majority" is probably more accurate.

Even those books that have made it to best-seller status, like THE CELESTINE PROPHESIES, are still very poorly written. Even when a major pub agrees to distribute, they don't do much with the editing. Perhaps, though, it is that the author feels that the words are too precious to touch.
I have always wondered about your last sentence, Jack, because of the many complaints readers have that publishers/editors don't do anything about spelling and grammar. I have always had the opposite impression. My copy-editors have been thorough to a fault, so much so that I've had to have a "stet" stamp made at one point. And that was certainly not because I consider my words too precious to touch. They've been wonderful about catching some embarrassing stuff. But overall, I got the feeling that they marked up novels to prove they were earning their wage.
Ultimately, the author approves or disapproves changes made by the copy-editor.
The thing that is becoming rare these days is editorial input on content and organization.
IJ, with Serpent's Tail I go through a content edit phase with my editor as well as getting feedback from other members of the organization--but then again, they take a more old-fashioned view of things--buying books that they love as opposed to what they think might be considered "commercially viable", having their sales force read the books they sell, giving books years to find an audience. And yes, their copy-editors are very particular and thorough also.
I love what I've seen of Serpent's Tail. In fact, I'm considering taking my last novel out of the country to someone who might have an inkling about what I'm trying to do with it. It couldn't be any more hopeless than addressing American publishers.
A "stet" stamp, what a great idea. My novels are all in character's voices - even the narration, so the copy editors go crazy.

I sometimes use the phrase, "It reads like my grade nine English teacher wrote it," as a criticism.

I realize I am in the minority.
Yes, you've got to stand up for yourself. I was breaking all those blue or green pencils and had a deadline. i daresay it made a very bad impression, using a stamp. :)

I haven't done much hands on copy editing in about 10 years. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself editing copy. Marked out a line, then after reading the graf that followed, I went back up and wrote "stet."

Later, the reporter, fresh out of J-school, came to me and said, "I did what you said, but it doesn't make sense."

She had taken the line out and literally wrote the word "stet" into her story. :-D


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